Deion Sanders

Why Deion Sanders is high on 49ers' offense heading into Super Bowl 54

Why Deion Sanders is high on 49ers' offense heading into Super Bowl 54

Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders knows a thing or two about offense. 

The legendary cornerback shut down opposing wide receivers in a 14-year career, but Sanders' playmaking ability allowed him to occasionally moonlight as a two-way player. Each of the five NFL teams he played for targeted him for at least one pass, and Sanders caught 36 passes for 475 yards and a touchdown with the Dallas Cowboys in 1996.

Last season's NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes will lead the Kansas City Chiefs' quick-strike passing attack against the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, but Sanders is a big fan of his former team's passing offense. 

"First of all, [tight end George Kittle's] just unbelievable," Sanders told reporters from Super Bowl Radio Row in Miami on Friday. "[Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders], all those guys, man. They have a really good receiving corps, and they've got a quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) that you're not talking about that can spin it as well. Fortunately, they got here a couple weeks ago on the running game. They don't care how they win, they just want the results of it. But do not underestimate San Francisco's passing attack because they can get the job done as well."

Garoppolo threw the ball just eight times in the 49ers' aforementioned NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers. The NFL traffics in What Have You Done For Me Lately, and San Francisco's, um, limited passing game against Green Bay stood in stark contrast to Mahomes' 294-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game. 

But from Weeks 9 through 17 of the regular season, Garoppolo ranked no worse than fifth in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns and passer rating among qualifying. Mahomes, returning from injury, made two fewer starts during that time. Still, the Kansas City signal-caller ranked behind Garoppolo in each of those categories during said stretch. 

"He's here (in Super Bowl LIV)," Sanders told reporters. "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the game. I think winning-percentage wise, he's ... at the top of the game, and winning in the games that he's performed in in his career. I love everything he brings to the table, and I love what they've placed around him to insulate him as well."

[RELATED: Why 49ers' Williams is key to stopping Chiefs' speedsters]

Not many passing offenses can keep up with the Chiefs, but Sanders seems to believe the 49ers are plenty capable with Garoppolo at the helm.  

You can watch the full interview in the player above. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

Deion Sanders says 49ers never offered him new contract after 1994

Deion Sanders says 49ers never offered him new contract after 1994

Deion Sanders' one season in San Francisco was pure Prime Time. 

Pro Bowl? Check. All-Pro? Check. AP Defensive Player of the Year? Check. Super Bowl champion? Yeah, that too. 

The Hall of Fame cornerback recorded six interceptions during the 1994 season -- three returned for touchdowns -- in 14 games. He even snatched two more picks in the playoffs, leading the 49ers to a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. 

And then he was gone, signing with San Francisco's biggest rivals at the time, the Dallas Cowboys. If it was up to Sanders, however, history would have been changed. 

"I was never offered a contract (by the 49ers after the '94 season)," Sanders told KNBR's Greg Papa and John Lund on Tuesday. 

How the multi-sport athlete found out he wouldn't be coming back to the 49ers is an even crazier story. 

"I was playing outfield for the Giants and we had a day game, and after the day game I went over to eat at some restaurant," Sanders remembered. "I think preseason had started to commence. I seen a dude (on the 49ers) on TV with 21 on. Well, I guess it's over." 

No player on the 49ers' roster in the '95 season wore No. 21. This was the preseason, though, when players get cut left and right and rosters still are being completed. 

Sanders hit .268 with six homers and 24 stolen bases between the Cincinnati Reds and Giants in '95. He also won his second straight Super Bowl ring in football, this one coming as a Cowboy. 

[RELATED: Why Steve Young got sick in limo after Super Bowl XXIX]

If the 49ers would have offered Sanders a new contract, would he have made San Francisco his new home? No doubt. 

"Of course!" Sanders said. "Why wouldn't you offer me a new contract? Never did. Never made an offer." 

While Sanders is a two-time champion with a Hall of Fame bust in Canton, Ohio, the 49ers still are chasing another Super Bowl title. That could come as quickly as Sunday in Miami against the Kansas City Chiefs, though. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

Steve Young told 49ers Jerry Rice-Deion Sanders story as Super Bowl lesson

Steve Young told 49ers Jerry Rice-Deion Sanders story as Super Bowl lesson

Steve Young has been where this current iteration of the 49ers are trying to go. He's hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. Bathed in glory's light.

Most of these 49ers, who now are 14-3 after a divisional-round win over the Minnesota Vikings, have never been on the biggest stage. Young has been speaking to the team, along with Jerry Rice and other past greats, since head coach Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over the franchise in 2017. 

With the rebuild complete and the 2019 49ers speeding toward a Super Bowl berth, Young told them a story prior to their Week 16 game against the Los Angeles Rams. One to illustrate the importance of being 100 percent focused on the task at hand.

In a story published Wednesday, ESPN's Nick Wagoner detailed how Shanahan and Lynch have made their team embrace the 49ers' glorious past.

Per Wagoner, Young told the 49ers a story of the days before Super Bowl XXIX. Those 49ers finished the regular season 13-3, had rolled over the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. They were 18.5-point favorites against the San Diego Chargers in Miami, where the 49ers would play Super Bowl LIV should they beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium.

Curfew in Miami was set for 11:15, but cornerback Deion Sanders didn't get back to the hotel until 11:40. The next day, coach George Seifert and his staff left the room so Young and Rice could address the team. 

That's when, as Young tells it, Rice lit into Sanders, letting him know that sort of behavior was unacceptable that close to the biggest game of the season. 

"It was intense," Rice told Wagoner of his talk with Sanders. "I just felt like, there's plenty of time to really just have fun after the big game is over. You have to be accountable and lock in on what matters the most."

With the 49ers now one win away from an NFC title and a trip to Miami to Super Bowl LIV, Young's story continues to hit home for a group that has been the most complete team in the NFL all season.

"He kind of put a foot in Deion's a-- and got on him," cornerback Richard Sherman told Wagoner. "And Deion took offense to it, and the rest of the team was like, 'No, you're wrong. You're definitely wrong on this.' They said it was just a huge moment for the team because it was just accountability. Everybody has to be held accountable."

That message of accountability is one the 49ers surely will take to heart as they prepare to face Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers waxed the Packers 37-8 back in Week 12, but they can't be overconfident due to a midseason beatdown. The Packers have won six in a row since the loss, and Rodgers is the type of generational player who can will a team to victory -- even if he's never won a game as at least a touchdown underdog.

[RELATED: Why Jimmy G sees torn ACL as 'blessing in disguise']

Shanahan's club has come a long way from the rebuilding project he took over in 2017. Now, they are the big bullies of the NFC. The team no one wants to play.

If they keep their focus and lock in on the task at hand, they should be headed to Miami with a chance to win the franchise its sixth Super Bowl.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.